The Many Crimes of Ariel Sharon (from 'Counterpunch')

JOHN M COX coxj at SPAMemail.unc.edu
Fri Feb 9 05:43:26 MST 2001


(a short article by Robert Fisk follows the Cockburn/St. Clair article)


            RETURN OF THE TERRORIST

          THE CRIMES OF ARIEL SHARON

    By Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair

[CounterPunch - 7 February]
Some incorrigible optimists have suggested that only a
right-wing extremist of the notoriety of Likud leader
Ariel Sharon will have the credentials to broker any
sort of lasting settlement with the Palestinians.
Maybe so. History is not devoid of such examples. But
Sharon?

Sharon's history offers a monochromatic record of
moral corruption, with a documented record of war
crimes going back to the early 1950s. He was born in
1928 and as a young man joined the Haganah, the
underground military organization of Israel in its
pre-state days. In 1953 he
was given command of Unit 101, whose mission is often
described as that of retaliation against Arab attacks
on Jewish villages. In fact, as can be seen from two
terrible onslaughts, one of them very well known, Unit
101's purpose was that of instilling terror by the
infliction of discriminate, murderous violence not
only on able bodied fighters but on the young, the
old, the helpless.

Sharon's first documented sortie in this role was in
August of 1953 on the refugee camp of El-Bureig, south
of Gaza. An Israeli history of the 101 unit records 50
refugees as having been killed; other sources allege
15 or 20. Major-General Vagn Bennike, the UN
commander, reported that "bombs were thrown" by
Sharon's men "through the windows of huts in which the
refugees were sleeping and, as they fled, they were
attacked by small arms and automatic weapons".

In October of 1953 came the attack by Sharon's unit
101 on the Jordanian village of Qibya, whose "stain"
Israel's foreign minister at the time, Moshe Sharett,
confided to his diary "would stick to us and not be
washed away for many years". He was wrong. Though even
strongly pro-Israel commentators in the West compared
it to Lidice, Qibya and Sharon's role are scarcely
evoked in the West today, least of all by journalists
such as Deborah Sontag of the New York Times who
recently wrote a whitewash of Sharon, describing him
as "feisty", or the
Washington Post's man in Jerusalem who fondly invoked
him after his fateful excursion to the Holy Places in
Jerusalem as "the portly old warrior".

Israeli historian Avi Shlaim describes the massacre
thus: "Sharon's order was to penetrate Qibya, blow up
houses and inflict heavy casualties on its
inhabitants. His success in carrying out the order
surpassed all expectations. The full and macabre story
of what happened at Qibya was
revealed only during the morning after the attack. The
village had been reduced to rubble: forty-five houses
had been blown up, and sixty-nine civilians, two
thirds of them women and children, had been killed.
Sharon and his men claimed that they believed that all
the inhabitants had run away and that they had no idea
that anyone was hiding inside the houses."

The UN observer on the scene reached a different
conclusion: "One story was repeated time after time:
the bullet splintered door, the body sprawled across
the threshhold, indicating that the inhabitants had
been forced by heavy fire to stay inside until their
homes were blown up over them." The slaughter in Qibya
was described contemporaneously in a letter to the
president of the United Nations Security Council dated
16 October 1953 (S/3113) from the Envoy Extraordinary
and Minister Plenipotentiary of Jordan to the United
States. On 14 October 1953 at 9:30 at night, he wrote,
Israeli troops launched a battalion-scale attack on
the village of Qibya in the Hashemite Kingdom of
Jordan (at the time the West Bank was annexed to
Jordan).

According to the diplomat's account, Israeli forces
had entered the village and systematically murdered
all occupants of houses, using automatic weapons,
grenades and incendiaries. On 14 October, the bodies
of 42 Arab civilians had been recovered; several more
bodies were still under the wreckage. Forty houses,
the village school and a reservoir had been destroyed.
Quantities of unused explosives, bearing Israel army
markings in Hebrew, had been found in the village. At
about 3 a.m., to cover their withdrawal, Israeli
support troops had begun shelling the
neighbouring villages of Budrus and Shuqba from
positions in Israel.

And what of Sharon's conduct when he was head of the
Southern Command of Israel's Defense Forces in the
early 1970s? The Gaza "clearances" were vividly
described by Phil Reeves in a piece in The London
Independent on January 21 of this year.

"Thirty years have elapsed since Ariel Sharon,
favourite to win Israel's forthcoming election, was
the head of the Israel Defence Forces' southern
command, charged with the task of 'pacifying' the
recalcitrant Gaza Strip after the 1967 war. But the
old men still remember it well. Especially the old men
on Wreckage Street. Until late 1970, Wreckage, or
Had'd, Street wasn't a street, just one of scores of
narrow, nameless alleys weaving through Gaza City's
Beach Camp, a shantytown cluttered with low,
two-roomed houses, built with UN aid for refugees from
the 1948 war who then, as now, were waiting for the
international community to settle their future. The
street acquired its name after an unusually prolonged
visit from Mr Sharon's soldiers. Their orders were to
bulldoze hundreds of homes to carve a wide, straight
street. This would allow Israeli troops and their
heavy armored vehicles to move easily through the
camp, to exert control and hunt down men from the
Palestinian Liberation Army.

"'They came at night and began marking the houses they
wanted to demolish with red paint,' said Ibrahim
Ghanim, 70, a retired labourer. 'In the morning they
came back, and ordered everyone to leave. I remember
all the soldiers shouting at people, Yalla, yalla,
yalla, yalla! They threw everyone's belongings into
the street. Then Sharon brought in bulldozers and
started flattening the street. He did the whole lot,
almost in one day. And the soldiers would beat people,
can you imagine? Soldiers with guns, beating little
kids!' By the time the Israeli army's work was done,
hundreds of homes were destroyed, not only on Wreckage
Street but throughout the camp, as Sharon ploughed out
a grid of wide security roads. Many of the refugees
took shelter in schools, or squeezed into the already
badly over-crowded homes of relatives. Other families,
usually those with a Palestinian political activist,
were loaded into trucks and taken to exile in a town
in the heart of the Sinai Desert, then controlled by
Israel."

As Reeves reported, the devastation of Beach Camp was
far from the exception. "In August 1971 alone, troops
under Mr Sharon's command destroyed some 2,000 homes
in the Gaza Strip, uprooting 16,000 people for the
second time in their lives. Hundreds of young
Palestinian men were arrested and deported to Jordan
and Lebanon. Six hundred relatives of suspected
guerrillas were exiled to Sinai. In the second half of
1971, 104 guerrillas were assassinated. 'The policy at
that time was not to arrest suspects, but to
assassinate them', said Raji Sourani, director of the
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza City".

Israeli complacency leading to their initial defeat by
the Egyptians in the 1973 war was in part nurtured by
the supposed impregnability of the "Bar Lev line"
constructed by Sharon on the east bank of the Suez
canal. The Egyptians pierced the line without undue
difficulty.

In 1981 Sharon, then minister of defense, paid a visit
to Israel's good friend, President Mobutu of Zaire.
Lunching on Mobutu's yacht the Israeli party was asked
by their host to use their good offices to get the US
Congress to be more forthcoming with aid. This the
Israelis managed to accomplish. As a quid pro quo
Mobutu reestablished diplomatic relations with Israel.
This was not Sharon's only contact with Africa. Among
friends he relays fond memories of trips to Angola to
observe and advise the South African forces then
fighting in support of the murderous CIA stooge Jonas
Savimbi.

As defense minister in Menachem Begin's second
government, Sharon was the commander who led the full
dress 1982 assault on Lebanon, with the express design
of destroying the PLO, driving as many Palestinians as
possible to Jordan and making Lebanon a client state
of Israel. It was a war plan that cost untold
suffering, around 20,000 Palestinian and Lebanese
lives, and also the deaths of over one thousand
Israeli soldiers. The Israelis bombed civilian
populations at will. Sharon also oversaw the infamous
massacres at Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps. The
Lebanese government counted 762 bodies recovered and a
further 1,200 buried privately by relatives. However,
the Middle East may have been spared worse, thanks to
Menachem Begin. Just as the '82 war was getting under
way, Sharon approached Begin, then Prime Minister, and
suggested that Begin cede control over Israel's
nuclear trigger to him. Begin had just enough sense to
refuse.

The slaughter in the two contiguous camps at Sabra and
Shatilla took place from 6:00 at night on September
16, 1982 until 8:00 in the morning on September 18,
1982, in an area under the control of the Israel
Defense Forces. The perpetrators were members of the
Phalange militia, the Lebanese force that was armed by
and closely allied with Israel since the onset of
Lebanon's civil war in 1975. The victims during the
62-hour rampage included infants, children, women
(including pregnant women), and the elderly, some of
whom were mutilated or disemboweled before or after
they were killed.

An official Israeli commission of inquiry - chaired by
Yitzhak Kahan, president of Israel's Supreme Court -
investigated the massacre, and in February 1983
publicly released its findings (without Appendix B,
which remains secret until now).

Amid desperate attempts to cover up the evidence of
direct knowledge of what was going on by Israeli
military personnel, the Kahan Commission found itself
compelled to find that Ariel Sharon, among other
Israelis, had responsibility for the massacre. The
commission's report stated: "It is our view that
responsibility is to be imputed to the Minister of
Defense for having disregarded ["entirely cognizant
of" would have been a better choice of words] the
danger of acts of vengeance and bloodshed by the
Phalangists against the population of the refugee
camps, and having failed [i.e."eagerly taken this into
consideration"] to take this danger into account when
he decided to have the Phalangists enter the camps. In
addition, responsibility is to be imputed to the
Minister of Defense for not ordering appropriate
measures for preventing or reducing the danger of
massacre as a condition for the Phalangists' entry
into the camps. These blunders constitute the
non-fulfillment of a duty with which the Defense
Minister was charged". (For those who want to refresh
their memories of Operation Peace for Galilee, of the
massacres and the Kahan coverup we recommend Noam
Chomsky's The Fateful Triangle.)

Sharon refused to resign. Finally, on February 14,
1983, he was relieved of his duties as defense
minister, though he remained in the cabinet as
minister without portfolio.

Sharon's career was in eclipse, but he continued to
burnish his credentials as a Likud ultra. Sharon has
always been against any sort of peace deal, unless on
terms entirely impossible for Palestinians to accept.
As Nehemia Strasler outlined in Ha'aretz on January 18
of this year, in 1979, as a member of Begin's cabinet,
he voted against a peace treaty with Egypt. In 1985 he
voted against the withdrawal of Israeli troops to the
so-called security zone in Southern Lebanon. In 1991
he opposed Israel's participation in the Madrid peace
conference. In 1993 he voted No in the Knesset on the
Oslo agreement. The following year he abstained in the
Knesset on a vote over a peace treaty with Jordan. He
voted against the Hebron agreement in 1997 and
objected to the way in which the withdrawal from
southern Lebanon was conducted.

As Begin's minister of agriculture in the late 1970s
he established many of the West Bank settlements that
are now a major obstruction to any peace deal. His
present position? Not another square inch of land for
Palestinians on the West Bank. He will agree to a
Palestinian state on the existing areas presently
under either total or partial Palestinian control,
amounting to merely 42 per cent of the West Bank.
Israel will retain control of the highways across the
West Bank and the water sources. All settlements will
stay in place with access by the IDF to them.
Jerusalem will remain under Israeli sovereignty and he
plans to continue building around the city. The Golan
heights would remain under Israel's control.

It can be strongly argued that Sharon represents the
long-term policy of all Israeli governments, without
any obscuring fluff or verbal embroidery. For example:
Ben-Gurion approved the terror missions of Unit 101.
Every Israeli government has condoned settlements and
building around Jerusalem. It was Labor's Ehud Barak
who okayed the military escort for Sharon on his
provocative sortie that sparked the second Intifada
and Barak who has overseen the lethal military
repression of recent months. But that doesn't diminish
Sharon's sinister shadow across the past half century.
That shadow is better evoked by Palestinians and
Lebanese grieving for the dead, the maimed, the
displaced, or by a young Israeli woman, Ilil Komey,
16, who confronted Sharon recently when he visited her
agricultural high school outside Beersheva. "I think
you sent my father into Lebanon", Ilil said. "Ariel
Sharon, I accuse you of having made me suffer for 16
some odd years. I accuse you of having made my father
suffer for over 16 years. I accuse you of a lot of
things that made a lot of people suffer in this
country. I don't think that you can now be elected
as prime minister".

Ilil was wrong. He's there. And now the bloodbath will
begin. CP

             -------------------------


      ONCE A "FEARSOME" GENERAL, SHARON IS NOW LITTLE
                MORE THAN AN ANACHRONISM

                 By Robert Fisk in Beirut

[The Independent - 8 February 2001]
The Arab regimes may tremble but the people they rule are no longer afraid.
It may have taken Ariel Sharon's election victory to prove it, but Israeli
threats and promises, warnings and predictions now leave the Arabs cold. In
Lebanon – invaded by Israel twice and bombarded countless times – the new
Israeli Prime Minister's name provoked expressions of hatred but none of
alarm. "Fatigue or fear of the new 'murderer' [Sharon] should not lead us to
surrender without fighting," Talal Salman, the editor of As-Safi, wrote in
yesterday morning's edition.

For the Arabs, Mr Sharon – far from being the rogue general constantly
described as "fearsome" by the BBC yesterday – is a throwback from the past,
a figure who may have infuriated President Hafez el-Assad or King Husain of
Jordan but who now appears an anachronism. Both those leaders have been
succeeded by much younger sons, as have the late King Hassan of Morocco and
Sheikh Issa of Bahrain. Of Yasser Arafat, Mr Sharon said in 1995 that he
knew of no one "with so much Jewish blood on his hands since the Nazi era".
But Mr Arafat is one of the few familiar Arab faces left in the Arab-Israeli
dispute. For years, the Israelis laughed at the geriatric figures ruling the
Arab world. Now the Arabs see Mr Sharon as the geriatric.

After years of negotiating the unnegotiable Oslo agreement, they appear
indifferent. "What can Sharon do to us?" a former Egyptian diplomat asked me
yesterday afternoon. "He's going to appoint a cabinet member who talks of
bombing Cairo. So what? We've lived with these threats for years. It's the
Americans who should be worried."

In the Middle East, front-page treatment was given to the news that Colin
Powell, the new US Secretary of State, has given written instructions to US
diplomats, forbidding further use of the expression "peace process".
Instead, American embassies are to refer to "peace negotiations" or
"movements towards peace". It will, of course, be interesting to see how
soon CNN and other satellite chains abide by the same instruction. But for
the Arabs, it was a sign that Washington already wishes to distance itself
from the ruins of the Clinton Middle East policy.

But the Arab regimes were as timid as ever in their response to Mr Sharon's
election. Egypt remained silent. King Abdullah of Jordan – who surely
recalls that Mr Sharon once suggested that the Palestinians of the occupied
territories should be "transferred" to Jordan, and that Jordan should become
Palestine – insisted blandly that "whoever comes to power among our
neighbours will not affect the future of Jordan".

Syria said nothing, leaving its newspapers, such as Al-Baath, to claim that
Mr Sharon "is a war criminal who is coming aboard a tank holding a knife and
a gun, not an olive branch; his victory is a declaration of war". So
sensitive did the Lebanese authorities regard the Israeli election results
that security services yesterday confiscated the second section of all
Tuesday's edition of The Independent because it carried my article on Mr
Sharon's responsibility for the Sabra and Chatila camp massacres of 1982.
Copies had been seized, officials said, "for evaluation".

Egyptian television carried live election coverage from Jerusalem on Tuesday
night but closed down the transmission after Mr Sharon stated that Jerusalem
would remain "Israel's eternal capital". Most government-controlled Arab
television stations followed the practice of CNN and the BBC – by recalling
Israeli condemnation of Mr Sharon for his role in the massacres but without
showing any archive footage of the much-filmed scenes of carnage inside the
camps.

When the Arab response was not indifferent, it bordered on the cynical.
Walid Husseini wrote in the Lebanese weekly Al-Kifah Al-Arabi that the Arabs
should thank Israeli voters for electing "an experienced surgeon who is
capable of uprooting the peace cancer which has eaten away at the
Palestinians and multiplied in the body politic of the Arab nation". You
wouldn't find the Arab leaders talking like that, of course. Nor those
Americans who still believe in a dead "peace process". Or, rather,
"movements towards peace".








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